The Americans Only Understand Force

In the wake of the package that Washington and its friends are offering Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sent new "partner" George Bush another missive, in which he writes: "After I heard Madam Condoleezza Rice’s proposal for the stick and carrot package you are preparing for us, after deep rumination and out of a recognition of our shared mission for world peace, of which I wrote to you in my previous letter, I am offering cooperation on the following basis: We are prepared to cease uranium enrichment for a period of 10 years on condition that Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and place its nuclear facilities under IAEA supervision; that you, the Americans, recognize the legitimacy of Hamas and immediately lift the international sanctions on the Palestinian Authority; that you stop harassing our friend Syria and cancel the trade embargo you imposed on the Syrian banks; that you work to change Resolution 1559 in a manner that legalizes the status of Hezbollah arms.

"If we can reach an understanding on these matters, Mr. Bush, we can also discuss the situation of Iraq and assist you in setting a date soon for the withdrawal of your troops from that conquered country. After all, Mr. President, if you and Israel maintain that we constitute an existential threat, you will doubtless be glad to remove this threat by forfeiting lesser matters such as Hezbollah and Hamas."

Because Western powers are not the only ones capable of drafting "stick and carrot" packages. Iran also knows how to spell those two words, especially when it is holding a large and threatening stick.

Out of a recognition of the spine-chilling power that such a letter could transmit to the back of the State of Israel, let it be said at once: The letter has not yet been sent, but it is possible it is already in the works. Because within five weeks Iran has gone from being a threatened country to a country "whose arguments should be heard" and a "partner for negotiations." In other words, whoever wants Iran to adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ostensibly ought to also accept its right to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes, a right set down in that same treaty. And whoever does not believe Iran's peaceful intentions finds he must prove that through more than ordinary muckraking; he has to put Iran to a real test. Negotiate with it. Nothing more or less than the way in which Washington is dealing with North Korea.

And that is how the American proposal was conceived. Not out of a fundamental understanding that the United States can no longer operate alone to implement its strategic aspirations. This time Washington, too, is required to demonstrate its purity of intentions and display a diplomatic willingness before firing. This is the most important strategic product of the war against Iraq, and Iran is its first beneficiary.

It may be presumed that Washington has looked inward and found the wisdom to ask itself: And what will happen if Iran agrees to negotiations? Ahmadinejad indeed rejected the initiative, but that, one may surmise, is only the beginning of the negotiations over the negotiations. A month ago he explained to anyone who would listen that Iran is now speaking from the position of a nuclear power and that it how it expects to be treated. That is, it wants to conduct direct negotiations with the U.S. with no preconditions and it will want to take part also in global policy making. Thus he also wrote to Bush in the famous letter that Rice dismissed as a "philosophical" document. The 18 pages of that philosophical document might turn out now to be a working paper. And therefore, if the issue is Iraq, Iran will want to be a partner, and all the more so when it comes to the Palestinian question.

And Israel? It too has a small and existential lesson. It might also have to pay something for the sake of the diplomatic campaign against Iranian nuclear power. It will suddenly learn that the very willingness to negotiate, even with a country that is considered the enemy of humanity, is not the prize but merely the means of obtaining it.